Broken systems One of the reasons that guardianship presents such a challenge to families who oppose it is the rapidity with which it is imposed on unsuspecting seniors and families as well as younger adults with disabilities. A plenary guardianship can strip a person of all their rights and money within a day or two of the initiation of the secret proceedings which lead to emergency temporary guardianships. Those proceedings can be initiated by almost anyone with or without proper justification or authority. From neighbors to social workers to adult protective service workers to lawyers to guardians to social workers to physicians to family members to angry business partners or angry ex-spouses or just about any other adult, initiating a guardianship proceeding with an incapacity determination request can be completed in the blink of an eye. As we all know, emergency temporary guardianships almost always morph into permanent plenary guardianships with all the attendant exploitation we have seen. Plenary guardianships are for all intents and purposes impossible to escape. The bottom line: guardianships are extremely easy to initiate and essentially impossible to stop.
Now let’s compare that to another system involved in this industry namely law enforcement. As an example let’s examine what has happened to Florida Guardian Traci Samuel Hudson.
Paraphrasing from a Tampa Bay Times article–
Maurice Myers, in March 2017, when he was 92, was hospitalized twice with numerous health complications. He was released from a rehabilitation facility, then moved to a senior care home in Pinellas Park, FL so his daughter could oversee his affairs. But just months, later his daughter unexpectedly died in October 2017. Staff members at the facility he was in knew Hudson because she acted as a guardian for other residents at the facility. So they reached out to a professional guardian they knew –Traci Hudson. Myers soon signed over his power of attorney and healthcare decisions to Hudson. In the 11 months she spent overseeing his care, Hudson swindled more than $500,000 from Myers, according to investigators, and spent it on things like jewelry and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets. A lengthy 12 month Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office investigation ended with Hudson’s arrest for exploitation of an elderly person. Deputies booked her into the Pinellas County jail on Thursday. She was released Friday after posting $250,000 bail. The investigation found that Hudson had been charging Myers $100 an hour for power-of-attorney services. Department of Children and Families investigators who interviewed Myers before his death reported that he wasn’t aware Hudson was charging him that fee, and that he didn’t know why she had been attached to his bank accounts. She ultimately transferred $541,541 from Myers’ accounts into two bank accounts that she controlled and a third controlled by her and her husband, the investigation said. That money was moved via 46 checks that included memo lines such as “caregiver refund, clothing, fees”; “home sale”; and vague references about savings and Myers’ daughter. This is Hudson’s first arrest in Florida, but she is trailed by a string of complaints and accusations, according to government records and news reports. In May, Hudson filed a libel lawsuit against four women she called a “vigilante mob,” accusing them of making false reports about her to investigative agencies. The suit stems from social media posts and complaints against Hudson, alleging she takes guardianship under false pretenses, then exploits her wards and blocks family members from seeing them. Hudson made headlines this year when it was discovered she served as the guardian for 84-year-old Genyte Dirse even though Dirse’s nephew, who had been living with her for 15 years, was actually caring for her. In February, WFTS-Ch. 28 reported that real estate agent Diana Sames tried to buy the beachfront hotel Dirse owned. When Dirse sold it to her nephew, Gedi Pakalanis, instead, Sames pushed for the court to appoint a guardian. Hudson was awarded guardianship, then sued Pakalanis to block the hotel’s sale. Sam Sugar, an advocate with the Americans Against Abusive Probate Guardianship, said Hudson’s arrest highlights the need for reforms to Florida’s guardianship program. “Today’s arrest of another apex predator in the Florida guardianship mob puts the president of the Pinellas County guardianship Association behind bars,” Sugar wrote in a post on the organization’s website. “We can only hope that this latest Florida guardianship scandal … will finally convince law enforcement authorities throughout the state of Florida and in every other state that they have been asleep at the wheel or worse by denying justice to the families of guardianship victims nationwide.”
So while an innocent person can be stripped of their rights in a matter of a day or two, a well-connected apex predator court insider guardian (it should be noted that in this particular case Hudson didn’t even bother with a guardianship and simply went to her friendly probate judge Pamela Campbell– another graduate of the Stetson University probate guardianship lawyer to judge industrial complex– to be appointed as personal representative to Mr. Myers thus avoiding even the appearance of supervision from the bench– a tactic commonly used by another apex predator Rebecca Fierle) can file lawsuits against anyone criticizing her and call them a “vigilante mob” to simply shut them up so that their remarks concerns and issues are automatically discounted by the friendly judge who creates the guardianships.
While guardianships are created with the greatest of ease and nothing more than an allegation of some degree of vulnerability or incapacity, they are created with the idea of “shoot first and ask questions later”. Once instituted that guardianized ward is almost certain to spend the rest of their life owned by another person and in their total control. Meanwhile, it takes a full year for law enforcement to perform an investigation into a clear-cut case of legally armed robbery. The Guardian is innocent till proven guilty, the ward is guilty before any proof exists. The ward is slammed into an emergency temporary guardianship where they are isolated from family and stripped of their rights, but the Guardian is out on bail and theoretically could be appointed a guardian for more cases.
These two systems do have one similarity however. In the guardianship, the torrent of money flying out of the estate and the funds of the family under legal pretenses is lost forever. The money that was pilfered illegally by the guardian will never be recovered either. The bond that guardians must have to function is only for $50,000 and payable to the state of Florida not to victims of guardianship abuse. The money used by Hudson has been spent or squirreled away on an island somewhere or used to purchase real estate. She will undoubtedly claim bankruptcy as well. Guardianships are easy to create an impossible to escape. Criminal activity takes a very long time to investigate properly and there’s no guarantee that even with incontrovertible evidence that Hudson will be convicted or even if she is convicted given a slap on the wrist because she is after all an officer of the court. In the end, though it might be easy to lay all the blame on the Guardian who acted criminally, as always none of this would’ve been possible without a complicit judge. Tracy Hudson had 31 guardianships at the time she was arrested. Nearly all of them were instituted by the same Judge Pamela Campbell. In my mind judge Campbell is guilty of failing to do her job which is to act as the ultimate fiduciary for citizens of Florida and to protect the vulnerable seniors whose cases come before court, not to enable and enrich a crooked guardian. Until probate judges are forced to admit that there is a problem within their ranks nothing will change. The vast majority of good and righteous judges who fill the nearly 1000 judgeships in Florida should be outraged that their good name has been sullied and the public trust in the judicial system has again been crushed. The same can be said for the good guardians in the state of Florida who should be deeply concerned that one of their own, and the president of the guardianship Association of Pinellas County no less, has brought shame on their ranks as have the likes of Fierle, Savitt, Gutierrez and others have done just this year in Florida. It is high time that we make guardianships much harder to start and much easier to stop.
It is also high time for Florida as well as National law enforcement to form a strike force on abusive guardianship.